What dog owners need to know about canine lungworm

Irina Wells
20 November 2019 - 5 min read

Dog owners across the UK have been warned to be extra vigilant as reports from veterinary clinic Vets4Pets and pharmaceutical company Bayer are indicating a growing number of canine lungworm cases in several regions across the UK.

Bayer has created an interactive map that shows the areas with recorded cases of lungworm disease. It allows pet owners to enter their own postcode to see if any dogs in the area have become infected.

According to Bayer's map, there have been 1,618 infections reported in the South East of England within a 50-mile radius of London.

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Some of the most affected areas include London, Sussex, Kent, Hampshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, the Isle of Wight and Bedford. Infections are not confined to these regions, with other areas across the UK also being affected.

However, the map does not say when these cases were reported so it is hard to tell how recent they are.

Dogs can get infected with lungworm when they come into contact with the slimy substance produced by slugs and snails - by eating them or by eating or licking surfaces where the slugs and snails have left a slimy trail.

To prevent dogs from becoming ill with lungworm, the Kennel Club advises owners to be mindful of any slugs or snails in their garden or when out for a walk. Vets4Pets recommends regular worming treatments as the number one way to prevent your dog from contracting the parasite.

The disease affects dogs' lungs and respiratory tract and is potentially lethal if untreated. Symptoms include vomiting and/or diarrhoea, excessive bruising, lethargy and loss of appetite. If you are worried your dog might have lungworm contact your vet immediately - "the key to a successful treatment is taking early action," says the Kennel Club.

Read on to learn more about Lungworm disease, what the symptoms are and how you can prevent your dog from getting infected.

The origin of the canine lungworm infection

Canine lungworm infection or angiostrongylisis was first found in a greyhound in Ireland in 1968. The cause of the infection is a parasite called angiostrongylus vasorum, popularly referred to as canine lungworm.

It first started being reported with an increased frequency among dogs in South East England but has since spread throughout the UK.

The infection is spread to dogs from snails and slugs and their slime.

Snails and slugs get infected with the larvae from digesting faeces. Dogs then ingest the molluscs or come in contact with their slime traces when rummaging around in roughage, eating grass or drinking from puddles.

What is lungworm infection?

Lungworms, also known as Angiostrongylus Vasorumare are parasitic worms that live inside the heart chamber and the pulmonary vasculature, which is the artery that connects the heart to the lungs. They measure around 2.5 cm. They affect dogs, foxes and badgers.

What are the symptoms of lungworm infection?

The symptoms are varied and often resemble the symptoms of other conditions. The infection is therefore not always obvious or easy to diagnose.

Symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Spontaneous bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Poor appetite
  • Bloody stools or urine

If you suspect your dog may have lungworm infection, seek veterinary help. The infection responds well to treatment but can be fatal if not caught in time. Most dogs make a full recovery provided they get treated on time.

Diagnosing lugworm infection can be difficult and usually requires an array of tests such as blood works, stool sample analysis and X-rays.

Can canine lungworm be prevented and how?

It is nearly impossible to discourage dogs from rummaging through ruffage and snacking on grass, but you can ensure that your dog gets regular deworming treatments.

While deworming for a number of parasites is done every three months, to prevent canine lungworm, deworming is recommended monthly. Speak to your vet about the right type of canine lungworm dewormer.

Make sure that any toys or water bowls kept outside the house are regularly cleaned and that there is no dog poo left in your outdoor areas.

And of course, trying to discourage your dog from eating grass and other dogs' poo may help, too.

What’s the treatment for canine lungworm and can it be cured?

The treatment for canine lungworm involves deworming that targets the angiostrongylus vasorum parasite that your vet can prescribe.

The exact treatment a dog with lungworm needs will depend on how severe the infection is, and whether it has caused further damage and conditions.

Treatment is most successful when administered early. Even though most dogs recover fully, the disease can be lethal if not caught on time.

What kind of dogs are susceptible to canine lungworm?

Dogs of all ages can become infected but younger, more energetic dogs tend to be more curious about the world around and therefore are more likely to explore. This puts them in more danger of coming in contact with infected slugs and snails or their slime.

Note that angiostrongylus vasorum is not transferred from dog to dog.

How common is canine lungworm infection?

Angiostrongylus vasorum lungworm infection is currently considered an ‘emerging’ disease. It used to be prevalent in southern England and Wales but has been spreading and an increasing number of cases are now being reported in the whole of the UK.

Cases have increased recently in London, Sussex, Hampshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, the Isle of Wight and Bedford.

There has also been a significant number of cases reported in Wales, Somerset and parts of the Midlands.

The infection is also prevalent across the rest of the UK.

You can find an interactive map that shows all the areas where lungworm disease has been reported on mypetandi.bayer.com.

Does ManyPets pet insurance cover canine lungworm infection?

Canine lungworm isn’t always easy to spot and may take time and an array of tests to confirm.

Investigation and treatment may add up to accumulate a costly vet fee. It is therefore always good to have pet insurance.

All of ManyPets policies will pay out to cover vet fees incurred as a result of investigation and treatment of angiostrongylus vasorum lungworm.

This article was written by ManyPets. We were not paid to write it but we will receive commission if clicking on a link to one of the named insurers results in a reader taking out a policy with that insurer. We also charge for advertising space so a particular insurer may be highlighted in the article and, where insurers are listed, it can dictate where they appear in the list.